Working smarter not harder

9th June 2011

A perennial question I am asked is "How can I do all I need to do when there isn't enough time?" Followed by, "I just wish I had time to focus on improving my personal performance."

Unfortunately the Police still equate presentism with how much work is being achieved. No matter how hard we try to change the culture there is still this feeling that those who are in the office by 7am and don't leave until 7pm are somehow better workers, leaders or even just better!

Where does that leave flexible workers or part time workers, who tend to be women?

Studies show that firstly they are not valued as much as regular full time workers and the majority of them are women.

According to a study published in the Psychological Review conducted by Dr. K. Anders Ericcson, the key to great success is working harder in short bursts of time. Then give yourself a break before getting back to work

.The trick is staying focused. Ericsson and his team evaluated a group of musicians to findout what the "excellent" players were doing differently. They found that violinists who practiced more deliberately, say for 4 hours, accomplished more than others who slaved away for 7 hours. The best performers set goals for their practice sessions and required themselves to take breaks

.Other studies show that during any 24 hours, you need sleep (8 hours) and then you need 3 hours of "you time", time to re energise. This is different for different people. It may be in groups.a walk, a swim, reading a book, playing a sport or an instrument. It does not have to be 3 hours all at the same time.

How many of you eat your lunch whilst continuing to send emails?

Not good.... Have a break you will perform so much better on your return. The researchers found that successful people in other professions managed their time well:

"While completing a novel, famous authors tend to write only for 4 hours during the morning, leaving the rest of the day for rest and recuperation. Hence successful authors,who can control their work habits and are motivated to optimise their productivity, limit their most important intellectual activity to a fixed daily amount when working on projects requiring long periods of time to complete."

While this may be alright for those working in the arts, it does have very real and tangible application to those in business. It's not that you should save your energy for 3pm or fixed times stated, but more knowing how best you work, combined with application in the time you do use.

In these times of cut backs that can often mean women (rightly or wrongly) feel their jobs are under threat and they will lose opportunities for promotion.

Even though there may be no promotions or job opportunities you do need to keep yourself  "match fit". On top of getting rest you also need to ensure you look after your physical and mental health. A lot is written about physical health but what about the mind? Make sure that you keep up to date with new government papers or legislation. Keep your skills up to date and take any opportunities for courses that will develop you. Make sure that you take offers of any mentoring schemes that your force have. Having a sounding board is always cathartic!

You are not being lazy, flighty, uncommitted or disloyal by looking after yourself. Lastly take a look at the benefits of having a coach or speak to others who have used lifecoaches. They are especially useful if you are unsure of your future or trying to decide which direction you want to go in. Remember work smarter not harder.......

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